July 31, 2014

Sometimes I Don't Blog

Sometimes, I don't blog.

I don't feel like writing, I don't feel like editing pictures.  This happens when I'm incredibly busy with work, traveling back to back weeks, at a loss for anything to write about or just lacking a little lazy time.

This week is a mix of all of those things.

We have awesome visitors in town.  I am rolling out a huge new web platform at work and training and troubleshooting constantly.  We just got back in town from Nashville and the next few weeks are hectic with travel.  Blah, blah, blah.  Yada, yada, yada.

I'm dreaming of a quiet weekend on a beach with my dogs and my husband.  That's not going to happen any time soon.

Instead, I'm going to try and write a little more, read a little more and find myself a little more quiet time.  Most importantly, I'm going to take any minute I can with my husband and those dogs.

Linking up with Allie and Juliette who have blogged every day in July which is really impressive.

July 28, 2014

Be Your Own Kind of Amazing

People are beautiful.  I love people watching and taking in the beauty of every day life and the tiny differences in each human that make them unique.  It's such a good thing to appreciate the beauty in other people, but you have to appreciate the beauty in yourself too.

When I looked in a mirror, I used to always see a pretty plain, normal looking person, but I'm beautiful too.  The older I get, the more comfortable I feel.  There are features that have been passed down to me from my parents, my aunts, my grandmothers and their mothers.  My hair, my figure, my loud voice.  I am grateful for those things that make me unique.

I have no idea how to wear makeup and I struggle with hair that isn't a top knot, but I own it and feel comfortable.  I love when my hair looks more red than blond.  I love the way that my hair air dries with natural waves.  I love the color of my eyes which is best described as hazel.

I finally embrace the fact that I will need glasses/contacts forever.  I love that I get freckles on my shoulders & arms.  My finger nails grow really fast and really strong and so does my hair (and no, I'm not taking prenatal vitamins.)  I have really long toes (fingers if you will) and I love them.  

Embrace it all.  You are who you are and as soon as you love that person, you will find yourself in a happier and easier place.  Be your own kind of amazing - you know, like my shirt says.

Happy Monday.  Love yourself, love your week and go love some other people.  I'm heading home from Nashville today so I'm probably pouting a little bit, but I'll get over it.  Also, watch this video, because it is beautiful and these women are amazing.

Linking up with The Florkens - one of the most beautiful couples I know :)

July 24, 2014

Life Lately

Mind dump begins here:

1.  We have been working so much lately.  Last night, the thunder started and it was just the excuse I needed to put down my computer and sit with the pups.  Quincy is afraid of storms and like to be under a blanket on your lap (and this is the dog that never likes to be held.)  Lola decided it looked comfy, so she crawled on my lap too.  I was just so damn happy... although my face looks a little creepy.

2.  You should probably save this recipe in your favorites and eat it next time you need some comfort mac & cheese.  I was in heaven Tuesday night while I inhaled so much of this.  Amazing.

3.  I am not a big fan of talking on the phone, but I have had a few extra long conversations this week with girlfriends and sisters all over the country and it gave me super good feelings.  I miss them all the time, but being able to catch up uninterrupted and laugh for an hour while drinking a glass of wine makes it easier (even if it's not face to face.)

4.  My niece is 6 today.  We miss those kiddos so much, but we get to see them in a few weeks.  Plus, thanks to Amazon Prime, I know that her gifts are arriving today.  We stick with this rule when buying gifts:  Something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read.  It rhymes so it's easy to remember.

5.  This summer is FLYING by and I haven't sat on a front porch yet.  WTF?

6.  Finally, I desperately need your help.  I have never taken a vacation without researching the top things to do and see and eat.  We are leaving tomorrow and I haven't googled one thing to do.

So, PLEASE, send me all your recommendations on restaurants, places to see and things to do.  Send me all your favorite country songs for my plane ride playlist.  We are celebrating a friend's wedding on Sunday, but we have 2 full days to explore this city that we've heard so much about, but never been to.  Please help.

July 23, 2014

4 Words for 2014: Create

Maya Angelou has a great quote that says: "You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have."  And I'm on a mission to find out if that's true.

I've never really considered myself a creative person.  I think it's because I'm not great at Pictionary and I didn't really know how to paint a self portrait in 6th grade art class.  As I've grown up, I've realized that there is a whole creative realm that doesn't focus on realistic paintings & drawings.

I decided to take part of my year this year (you can read my resolutions post here) and come up with some goals for myself based on the word "create."  I want to use more creativity in an attempt to have more creativity.  I want to take my imagination out of retirement and use the side of my brain that doesn't get much attention.

This list was the hardest for me to come up with, so if you have any ideas to add on ways to branch out and get a little more creative - let me know.

Complete 3 DIY projects.  You know, those Pinterest boards that I add stuff to all the time?  I'm going to make an attempt at completing a few things.

Visit at least 2 museums.  I want to not only explore my creativity, but learn a little more about art in general.  My husband went to art school and will be the greatest tour guide through the Met.  I think it's time.

Write.  And I'm leaving that as open as possible.  I have so many ideas and I want to take some time to get them down on paper.  Maybe even real paper instead of the computer.

Take better pictures.  There are some awesome photo challenges that don't use an iPhone, but instead they challenge you to take out your real camera and get creative.  

Complete a project with Justin.  Like I said earlier, my husband has some serious artistic talent.  His dream growing up was to be an animator.  I would love to work on something with him.

Take a class on something new.  Maybe I'm really good at arranging flowers and I never knew it.  I want to take a class on something outside the box and see if there are untapped artistic talents hiding.

Update my workspace.  My desk is kind of a disaster area in our apartment.  It doesn't really inspire to do anything other than roll my eyes and get frustrated.  It needs a ton of work and now is the time.

Live music.  I want to see more live music.  We used to go to concerts all the time and we haven't really gotten into our groove since we moved.  We are going to see Dawes on Tuesday in Central Park and I want that to be the beginning of a few months FULL of music.


If you are interested in the reading/research I'm doing on cultivating my creative side, you can always follow me on Pinterest.  I create a board for each of my words for the year.  Here is my "getting creative" board.  Please let me know if you have any good books, ideas or people to follow to help me with this resolution.  I'm open to anything.

July 22, 2014

4 Words for 2014: Connect

We are halfway through 2014 which is crazy.  Back in January, I decided to do something a little different with my resolutions.  In case you missed it, here is the original post.  Before I move on to my goal list for the word "create" - I wanted to recap my "connect" goals.

Be the best wife ever.  Well, you'd have to ask J how I did, but I definitely made an attempt.  We have no phone dates as often as possible.  I have been sure to send him little notes whenever I'm thinking about him.  I've been trying to pack his lunch or put his movies first in the Netflix queue.  It's the little things.

Send letters.  Check.  This is something I will continue to do often.  It was so much fun to think of random reasons to send someone a little something.

Become a better part of the community.  Hmmm... I guess this was a fail.  I have to do more research and get myself out there a little bit more.

Be present and intentional during social outings.  You can read that as "PUT DOWN THE PHONE."  It's crazy how hard it is to do this, but if you are very aware - you can do it.  I noticed a difference in the conversations and the amount of information I gathered while we were out.  This was especially important when we were visiting Minnesota because I wanted to soak them all in.

Meet new people.  I did OK at this.  We have been saying yes whenever we can.  I will eventually write an entire post about making new friends as an adult because I have a ton of thoughts on this.

Be a good neighbor.  I've been using the Be Nice Box to help give me ideas on how to reach out to more neighbors.  We love the building we live in, especially the dog park.

Appreciate our friends.  I think this is a forever project.  It's so important to make sure that the people in your life know how much you love them.  Sending mail has been one of my favorite ways to do this.  Also, we have been savoring our visits with out of towers.

Support local businesses and projects of other friends.  This is one of my favorites because it involves eating and shopping.  Duh.

Spread the love and practice random acts of kindness.  This is another ongoing important practice for everyone.  I'm continuing my subscription for the Be Nice Box because it gives me the best ideas and hints.

So there you have it.  If you missed the recap on clean, you can find it here.

July 21, 2014

A Day in my Life (GIF style)

I love this prompt from the Blog Everyday in July challenge.  I stalk this blog and love her "week in gif" posts.  They are my favorite.  So, here is a typical day for me using some of my favorite reality TV characters (and some of my least favorite.)

I'm a morning person, so jumping out of bed is usually never an issue for me.  My husband is not the same.  He is usually annoyed by my AM energy.

First up, coffee and news.

Then my workday starts and I have a good hour before anyone in the central time zone is in the office.

Once 10:00 hits, meetings have started and my day takes a turn.

1:00 rolls around and I realize that my stomach is screaming at me.

I attempt to choke down the kale juice mixed with whatever fruit is supposed to cover up that taste.

I dive into my afternoon training sessions and emails until I can't take it anymore around 5:00.

I make dinner, hang out with my husband and then contemplate going to the gym.

After deciding against the gym, I decide to paint my nails.

I settle in to write a blog post.

And then attempt to schedule some social media stuff for the following day.

Once the clock hits 9:30, it's one of my favorite times of the day.

And then I do it all over again the next day.

All GIF's are from Reality TV GIF's Tumblr which is a guilty pleasure website for me.

July 18, 2014

Feelin' Good Friday

Traveling for work is exhausting.  I always find myself working insanely long days because I have so much to do for work and not much to do that isn't work related.  I am looking forward to the vision of the New York City skyline tomorrow as I return back home to my husband and my dogs.

Since my life has been so thrilling this week, I obviously have so much to share with you.  Let's see - plane, layover, plane, car, meetings, emails, meetings, sleep.  Repeat meeting, emails, meeting, sleep 3 times. Done.

Now that you're caught up, I want to share a few of my favorite things with you today.

1.  This picture has been making me smile all week.  It might be the background on my iPad right now.  Rafiki might be my favorite Disney character ever, which is saying a lot.  We "lion king" Lola almost every morning.

2.  Our camping food and drink last weekend, but especially the "Sangria" that we made because I couldn't find any and we didn't have much to work with.  We used a little google power and a little improvising and my awesome tumblers from Walgreens.

3.  These Starbucks mugs.  We've been collecting them since last August and they are my favorites to drink out of.  I was able to pick up a new Chicago mug during my layover.  I love them.  I want all of them.

4.  This 5 Year Journal that I heard about from Lisa @ Two Martinis.  It's easy to do it every day and I think it will be kind of fun to see my answers change over the next 5 years.

5.  The Feelin' Good Playlist on Spotify.  It's amazing and it has been exactly what I needed this week.

I'm thinking up with the ladies doing the blog every day in July (check them out here), Friday favorites with Amanda and the new link up over at September Farm.  Have a great weekend.

July 15, 2014

Tarzan Meets Indiana Jones: A Zip Lining Adventure

Remember when I told you on Friday that I might go zip lining over the weekend?  WELL I DID.  But before I tell you about the experience, I have to explain the process leading up to making that decision.

I'm a bit of a control freak.  When things aren't under my control, I tend to get sick to my stomach and nervous and a bit of a mess.  I'm trying all kinds of relaxation methods to react like a normal person and I'm getting better.  

1 month ago - We look up zip lining in the Northeast with our neighbors.  We joke about going and I instantly had a bundle of nerves tighten up and I start internally freaking out that they might actually want to go and then I would have to commit.  It was forgotten the next day... deep sigh.

2 weeks ago - I realize that the zip lining course was within 5 miles of the campground I booked for our weekend camping trip.  Do I tell Justin?  What if he suggests paying in advance and making a reservation?  Then I can't back out.  Nope, I'll tell him when I decide if I want to go or not.

1 week ago - I tell Justin, but I make sure he knows that it's something we might do.  He knows I'm weird and accepted it, but I could tell he was instantly way more excited for this camping weekend.

Sunday - I research the zip line experience for the 100th time and decide it's probably too much excitement to check 2 things off the 30 before 30 list in one weekend.  But it looks fun, but no, we'll just go hiking instead.

Wednesday - I realize that I put zip lining into our July budget.  Crap.  That was going to be my "out."  Now I don't have one.  Maybe it will rain.  I think I want to go, but I also think I'm afraid.

Friday - We are totally going zip lining tomorrow and it is going to be epic... I'm 80% sure.

Saturday, the day of the zip line:

8:15 AM - Not even a little nervous, I wake Justin up and we head straight to the mountain and before I can have any second thoughts, we are signed up for the 9:00 AM tour.  The person working tells me to use the bathroom before our tour time because there will be no bathrooms for 3 hours.  Freak out begins.  What if I have to pee?  What kind of torture have I signed myself up for.  I'm going to be the only adult ever who pees in the woods during the tour.

9:00 AM - The first guide introduces himself and he seems cool.  The other people in our group arrive and seem nervous which makes me feel less crazy.  Harness is strapped on me and helmet is adjusted.  We are doing this.

9:30 AM - I'm going over the safety information in my head so I know exactly what I need to be doing.  I'm watching the guides prepare everything.  I'm surprisingly calm.  Too calm?  I start second guessing my new found peace.

9:35 AM - I'm standing on the platform and I realize that I'm about to cannonball 650 feet above the valley floor for 3/4 mile.  I take a deep breath and jump.


9:37 AM - Dammit.  I am embarrassed that I didn't get enough speed to make it the whole way across on the first one.  Justin went flying through the air and I didn't have the right form.  But honestly, who cares because that was AWESOME.

9:55 AM - Now I'm a pro.  We volunteer to go first on the second zip.  I jumped off the platform without a second thought.

And it goes on.  Any nerves were long gone.  The morning was spent zipping through the trees and across the valley from mountainside to mountainside like Tarzan without the animal print onesie.  At one point, there was a suspension bridge that brought out my Indiana Jones and I caught myself grinning ear to ear.

I laugh about it now because it was such an internal struggle for me and when it came time to step off the platform, there were no worries.  We had so much fun.  That was the whole point of making a list and giving myself a deadline.  I wanted to push my own boundaries.  My husband is pretty much the best person in the world for dealing with my bizarre behavior.  

If you are looking for an awesome experience, Hunter Mountain is the place to go (especially if you get Dabo and Steven as guides.)  The price tag was high, but the tour was 3 hours long and it was worth every penny.  Oh and we followed the rules and didn't bring anything with us so the only proof we have is a wristband picture (which I now realize could be anyone's wrists.)

And yes, our wristbands said "Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway." - John Wayne... Immediately followed up by There are no refunds.  Thanks John Wayne for the encouragement.

Have you ever zip lined?  What makes you nervous?

July 11, 2014

Stars, S'Mores & Sleeping Bags

We are heading out camping this weekend.  It is on my 30 before 30 list to take my husband away for a weekend of stars, s'mores and sleeping bags and it couldn't be a better time.


We are saying goodbye to iPads, computer screens, televisions and the city.  We've got a menu of campurritos, not-dogs and s'mores.  I've got a batch of campsite sangria made up in a big plastic jug.  We treated ourselves to new cooking sticks for the fire.  There's nothing a weekend full of fresh air and no showers can't solve.  And don't forget singing songs like this around the campfire (I doubt Justin will let that continue for more than 30 seconds.)

In other 30 before 30 news, there may be zip lines involved this weekend to check another thing off the list.  I've been making progress on my bible reading.  Our Iceland trip has officially entered the planning stages.  I'm also on day 12 of the yoga challenge which is officially the most days in a row that I have gotten through.

Is my list the most random thing you've seen?  Do you have a bucket list?

July 8, 2014

My Introduction to Horse Racing

I have to admit that I've always thought horse racing was a bit of a rich man's sport.  I assumed it was for those who have tons of money and never paid much attention to it.  This weekend, Justin & I were invited to the Stars & Stripes Festival at Belmont Park and we decided to give it a chance.

We were lucky enough to be guests of America's Best Racing and had a blast soaking up their knowledge of the sport.  I was happy to find out that I was totally wrong about my assumptions.  This is totally something we could do again and again.  We did a little research before we went to make sure we were good on the dress code and read up on some basic betting rules (that part gets tricky.)  Here are a few of our favorite parts of the day, plus some advice if you are planning a trip to the track.

Belmont Park itself.  It's not far from the city which makes it an easy day trip.  The park has lots of great history and it's huge!  The grounds were beautiful.  The tailgating atmosphere was great.  So many families and fans carry in lawn chairs, games, coolers and snacks to settle in for an afternoon of fun.  We enjoyed a few beers and some amazing food truck Mac & Cheese.  Read up on what you can bring to the races and prep beforehand.

Horses... obviously.  They are so incredibly beautiful and strong.  I learned a ton about racing and the history of the sport.  I learned how to read their stats and some of the little things to look for.  I think my favorite is their names though.  You can read up on the horses before the day of the race if you want to come with a betting plan.  Or you can wing it like we did and pick the gray horses to win every time.

The Paddock.  This was one of the coolest things about being a guest of America's Best Racing team. We got to go into the Paddock which is where the trainers prep the horses and do a hand off with the jockeys.  We got to be right in the middle of all of it.  It was so cool watching the owners, trainers and jockeys mingling with each other and with the press.

People watching.  The American clothing was out in full form on Saturday.  It was sprinkled in with the hats and fancy summer dresses.  I recommend checking the dress code if you head to the races.  This track had a dress code for the Paddock & the box seats.  We did that in advance and didn't miss out on any of it.

Gambling, winning and the excitement of all of it.  Justin & I spent the first 3 races asking questions and soaking up all the information we could before making a few bets.  (I should have reread this post from Venus before going.) We stuck with pretty basic bets for the most part.  Justin got creative with one and then thought he won... but he didn't.  The picture below was taken when he thought he won.  The smile went away shortly after that when he understood what actually happened.

I decided to make one final bet on the last big race of the day and I WON.  It is so much fun listening to the crowd get louder and louder as the race goes on.  The video at the bottom is Minorette winning the big race of the day which made me a winner too.

photo courtesy of @ABRVTour via twitter

The sport is exciting, the people were so fun and we can't wait to go again with friends.  The whole experience definitely exceeded our expectations and we are trying to figure out how to get to Saratoga before the summer is over.  If you are interested in winning a vacation, America's Best Racing is hosting a giveaway for a trip to Saratoga in New York and Del Mar in California and if you win, you can take me :)  Go check it out here.

Maybe I should rethink Polo and Croquet too...

Have you been to the races?  What's your betting strategy?

July 7, 2014

All-American Weekend: Dueling, Cupcakes and Lady Liberty

We had no plans for the weekend other than the Stars and Stripes festival on Saturday (more on that tomorrow) so I had to get creative.  We challenged ourselves to an All-American Scavenger Hunt this weekend and finished with 9/10.  That's an A minus, so I'll take it.

1. Eat Fried Food.  We accomplished this during our trip to Roosevelt Island.  We stopped and watched a little of the Yankees vs. Twins and enjoyed fried mac & cheese bites.  Those rarely disappoint.

2.  Find a site with historical significance.  We visited the site of the Alexander Hamilton vs. Aaron Burr duel on the 4th.  I've seen it on google maps while looking for restaurants near us, so we drove up the hill to check it out.

3.  Drink an American beer.  We outdid ourselves with this one.  We drank a beer on Friday from each region of the country.  Anchor from California, Sam Adams from Mass, Abita from Louisiana and Founders from Michigan.

4.  Light a sparkler.  EPIC FAIL.  Turns out these are illegal in New Jersey AND New York.  I was really sad.

5.  Locate some creative American flag gear.  This was easy and really entertaining.  My favorite is always Quincy wearing this hat.

6.  Recite the Pledge of Allegiance.  This was completed and I forgot to video tape it.

7.  Sing your favorite song about America loudly for all to hear.  Thanks to snapchat - a few friends were able to enjoy my Miley Cyrus performance.

8.  Find a famous landmark or a replica of one.  The rain made this a little less fun, but we headed down to Liberty State Park and paid our respects to Lady Liberty on America's birthday.

9.  Enjoy a good summer dessert.  We indulged in bite size cupcakes this weekend from Baked by Melissa.  They had special 4th of July treats in Cherry and Blueberry flavors and they were amazing.  We will definitely be returning for more of their mini-cupcakes.

10.  Thank a solider.  This should be done as often as possible, but I made sure to reach out to a few of our friends and family this weekend who have served our country and fought for freedom.

So tell me, how many of these things did you accomplish this weekend?

July 4, 2014

All American Scavenger Hunt

Happy Birthday America!!!  I sat with my coffee this morning watching the clouds roll by and realized that we don't really have anything going on today.  That usually leads to a day of tipping back beers or adventuring into the city, but it's America's day today and we need to celebrate.  

I created this list of things for us to go find today and I figured I could share with everyone.  If you're looking for something to do this weekend and want to embrace your red, white and blue, play along and go on a scavenger hunt.  Also, I realize this is incredibly cheesy and I feel bad for my friends and husband that I force to play these games with me.

Extra credit for pictures of awesome denim vests, bald eagles and you win if you can resist taking blurry pictures of the fireworks tonight.  Just enjoy them.  You'll never look at those pictures again.

Please share your photos if you decide to play along.  I'm packing the camera and we are going to head out on an adventure.  Hope you all have a safe, fun weekend celebrating.  Eat good desserts and drink American.  #freedom

July 3, 2014

A Weekend in the Berkshires

As you know, I spent last week on the road for work (recap here if you missed it.)  Justin has been putting in 12 hour days almost every work day and many Saturdays for the last month.  It's been insane.  I was sitting in a lovely rocking chair in the Charlotte airport on Friday when he sent me a text about going on a last minute trip to Boston.  I was intrigued and immediately started researching options.  I missed the dogs a ton and wanted to make sure they could join us wherever we went and I ended up settling on a weekend in the Berkshires.  Have I told you how much I love the east coast where everything is less than a 3 hour drive?

Turns out, he was totally joking and was quite surprised when he got home and the bags were packed and a cabin was rented.  It was just what we both needed though.  We had an amazing weekend filled with mimosas, grilling, lake time, sunsets, pasta salad, good local beer and exhausted pups.  Plus, anytime that you are able to include $4.99 floaties from Stop & Shop, nothing can go wrong.

rat terrier/chihuahua mix

We have always loved Cape Cod & Boston, but it's safe to say that Western Mass did not disappoint.  We enjoyed our time in the Poconos in May, but I think the Berkshires were a little more us.  It felt a lot like our favorite lakes at home but the cute little towns were quite a bit older and the drive included hills and covered bridges that don't really exist in Minnesota.  We can't wait to plan our next getaway there.

What are you waiting for?  Go get yourself a $5 floatie and have a fantastic holiday weekend.

beautiful sunset